Missing British boy Alex Batty who has not been seen since his mother and grandfather ‘abducted him’ in Spain six years ago aged 11 is found alive and well in France after fleeing ‘spiritual community’, officials say

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Alex Batty, from Oldham, was just 11 when he did not return from holiday in 2017 

A British boy who has not been seen since his mother and grandfather allegedly abducted him in Spain six years ago has been found alive and well in France, prosecutors said today.

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017.

Alex’s grandmother and official guardian, Susan Caruana, said in 2018 she believed her daughter and ex-husband had taken him abroad to live an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

And now, six years after his disappearance, prosecutors say that Alex has been found alive and well near Toulouse, France, after fleeing a ‘spiritual community’. 

Investigators believe Alex escaped the rural community and spent days trekking across the Pyrenees before being picked up by a trucker who took him to a police station in Revel, near Toulouse.

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie (pictured), then 37, and grandfather David, then 58, in 2017

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie, then 37, and grandfather David (pictured), then 58, in 2017

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he did not return from a holiday to Spain with his mother Melanie (left), then 37, and grandfather David (right), then 58, in 2017

Alex flew into Malaga airport in Spain on a pre-agreed trip with Melanie – who does not have legal parental guardianship – and David for a week-long stay in the Benahavis area, near Marbella on 30 September 2017.

But Alex, his mother and grandfather did not come back home as expected on October 8 2017, sparking a massive police enquiry into the boy’s apparent abduction. 

Alex’s heartbroken grandmother Susan, who was 62 at the time of disappearance, said in 2018 that Melanie and David had previously lived on a commune in Morocco with Alex in 2014 as part of an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

Susan, who has never given up hope she will be reunited with her grandson, said she believed her daughter and ex-husband had abducted Alex so that he could live an ‘alternative lifestyle’. 

She said at the time: ‘They didn’t want [Alex] to go to school, they don’t believe in mainstream school.’

Now prosecutors in south west France are certain that Alex, who is now 17, has turned up alone at a police station in Revel, near Toulouse, after a mammoth journey.

Alex, his mother and grandfather had been living between the departments of Ariege and Aude in southern France in tents and caravans pitched in the wilderness in recent weeks, reports La Depeche newspaper.

And last week, Alex decided flee the ‘spiritual community’ and his mother and grandfather in the rural foothills of the Pyrenees.

Over several days, he hiked across mountains in the Pyrenees and crossed through several villages including Quillan, in the upper Aude Valley. 

After a gruelling few days hiking through the mountainous region, an exhausted Alex stumbled onto a road and by some stroke of luck was picked up by a trucker on Tuesday evening.

The trucker, who said the boy could only speak English, said he called the police after quickly realising Alex’s situation was ‘abnormal’. The driver dropped Alex off in Revel, Toulouse, before the 17-year-old went to the local police station. 

Alex calmly told the shocked gendarmes how he had been living in a ‘spiritual community’ for the past six years and how he’s from the UK. 

And today, the Toulouse public prosecutor confirmed that it is indeed Alex Batty.’

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he went missing while travelling with family members in Spain in October 2017

Alex Batty, from Oldham, Lancashire, was just 11 when he went missing while travelling with family members in Spain in October 2017

Alex's grandmother Susan (pictured), who was 62 at the time of disappearance, said in 2018 that Melanie and David had previously lived on a commune in Morocco with Alex in 2014 as part of an 'alternative lifestyle'

Alex’s grandmother Susan (pictured), who was 62 at the time of disappearance, said in 2018 that Melanie and David had previously lived on a commune in Morocco with Alex in 2014 as part of an ‘alternative lifestyle’

Early enquiries by judicial police working with prosecutors suggest that Alex was living in a ‘spiritual community’ with his mother and grandmother, and mainly staying in caravans and tents.

At the time of Alex’s disappearance six years ago, Greater Manchester Police said ‘extensive enquiries’ led them to believe that Alex, his mother and grandfather left Benahavis and may have tried to head to Melilla in Morocco from the Port of Malaga.

Officers said they believed Alex was staying with Melanie and David who are ‘both at large’ and wanted in connection with his abduction. 

His heartbroken grandmother Susan revealed that the trio had sent her a video of themselves saying why they had left the UK to live an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

Recalling the day they were supposed to return home, Susan said in 2018: ‘I got this message on Facebook and it was a YouTube video of the three of them.

‘They all spoke on it and Melanie said the reasons why they had done what they had done.

‘Alex said it was a million times better being with his mum and granddad. Obviously it hurt a bit but then my other concerns kicked in.

‘The reason I believe they have done this is because basically my lifestyle, my belief systems, are not what they agree with – just simply living day to day, how normal people do.

‘They didn’t want him to go to school, they don’t believe in mainstream school.’

Susan, who has said she is broken by Alex’s apparent abduction, has never given up hope that she would be reunited with her grandson. 

On his 15th birthday, Susan pleaded with him to let her know he was safe and well in a post on Facebook. 

‘Happy birthday to my gorgeous 15 year old grandson. Alex please have some pity, I am broken. Please just give me a sign that you’re ok.

‘I think every day that you are in some far off place living the life that your mum wanted for you. All I want to know is that you’re still alive and well.

‘It’s been years of torture, my heart is broken. I love you so much I just need to know you’re ok. I hope I will see you again some day, I would give anything just for one hug. Grandma x’ 

Greater Manchester Police said in a statement released today that officers in Oldham are in contact with French authorities to establish the authenticity of reports that Alex was found. 

A spokesperson said: ‘This is a complex and long-running investigation, and we need to make further enquiries as well as putting appropriate safeguarding measures in place.’

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